Can abuse victim renew residency without help from spouse?

This week, in my Consulta Migratoria® column, I answer the question of a reader, a victim of abuse by her husband, who wants to know if she can renew her green card without her husband's help. Here I answer general questions from my readers. Please consult with an immigration attorney to receive personalized legal advice before beginning any process.

Here is the column:

I am married to a U.S. citizen and we have a 2 year old child. My husband helped me obtain permanent residency in July 2012. My green card expires in July 2014. We are having a lot of problems and I have suffered physical and mental abuse from my husband. Will I be able to renew my green card without my husband's help if I get divorced? - Ana S.

Ana, from the information you provide, it appears that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) granted you conditional permanent residency. This occurs when the marriage is less than two years old at the time the USCIS approves the application for permanent residency.

Generally, both spouses must submit the application to remove the conditions of permanent residence. The application must be filed within 90 days before the expiration of two years after the conditional permanent residence was granted.

Spouses must prove:

1. that the marriage was legal at the place where it was performed

2. that the marriage has not been terminated

3. that the purpose of the marriage was not to acquire permanent residence

4. that no money was paid to persons other than lawyers to carry out the transaction

If the couple is unable to file jointly for major reasons such as divorce or incarceration, the person who is a conditional permanent resident may request a waiver of the requirement. Waivers may be filed before, during, or after the 90-day deadline for joint applications filed by the couple.

Waivers may be granted if there are valid reasons, such as a conditional permanent resident having suffered physical abuse or extreme cruelty by a citizen or permanent resident spouse. They need not have been divorced.

The USCIS considers physical, psychological, sexual, or exploitative abuse to be acts of violence. You may qualify for a waiver if you have suffered physical and mental abuse by your spouse. You will need to have irrefutable proof, such as medical, police, or court reports. USCIS will keep the information you submit about your case confidential.

It is of utmost importance that you consult with an immigration attorney before beginning any immigration proceedings.